Friday, June 27, 2008

Rapture Ready

Daniel Radosh's "Rapture Ready" is an exploration into the world of Christian pop culture. Radosh calls this world a "parallel universe" and he clearly approaches it as such. His perspective is that of a self-professed New York liberal Jew and he finds this universe rather odd but in the end he comes to see beyond his own stereotypes and describes a rather complex world. He ranges far and wide, looking into such areas as Christian merchandising (known as "Jesus Junk"), to Christian wrestling, to pop music, to abstinence education, to theme parks, etc.

On the surface, all of this seems somewhat boilerplate and Radosh starts out rather jaded and cynical. Along the way, though, he begins to see there are subgroups and differences in approaches to popular culture. He runs into Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker's son, who runs a progressive church out of Brooklyn that approves of, among other things, homosexuality and lesbianism. He finds that even among the more traditional approaches to evangelicalism, there are some who choose to shut themselves off from the world and those who choose to engage in meaningful dialogue with people who disagree with their worldview.

Radosh is by no means an objective observer and there are some really funny, but condescending passages describing some of the cheesier aspects of Christian popular culture. And while there are times he looks down his nose at this whole world, he is honest enough to admit this and he's also honest enough to point out the good side. He genuinely comes to admire some of the Christian comics and to appreciate some of the Christian music he hears. In the end, he says that in order to foster meaningful dialogue between the evangelical world and Radosh's world, there needs to be some mutual understanding and appreciation and, of course dialogue. Rather than just dismiss all of this as drivel and a banal collection of mediocre crap, those of us in the Northeastern establishment need to look for common ground with evangelicals. The alternative is to push these groups further and further into a subculture that licks its wounds and nurtures resentments and hostilities.

One of the best parts of the book is the online appendix, which has a boatload of videos, images, and web links to many of the performers and groups Radosh mentions in the book. It's a truly great addition and if anyone reads the book, I really recommend you follow along with the online appendix. Take a look at it here.

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